AN ARTIST who popped into Poundstretcher was shocked when staff asked her to leave because they apparently found her "intimidating".

Helen Pace has regularly visited the bargain-based business since she moved back to the town centre last month, buying bedding when she first settled into her new home and purchasing cheap digestion medication that helps with her anorexia issues.

However, her latest visit to the discount store has put her off making future trips as she was appalled by the way she was treated.

The 50-year-old said: "I had just walked in, put two items in my basket and gone down one aisle before a young woman stopped me and said I need to leave because one of the staff members found me intimidating.

"I thought she was joking, I was gobsmacked and fuming, I've been served by that same staff member several times and had no problems and I hadn't done anything, I hadn't even talked to her this time.

"I asked to see the manager, who looked surprised when I asked why I had been told to leave, they wouldn't tell me why, and I wondered if it was because of the way I dressed - all in black.

"The manager said it wasn't because of how I dressed but then asked me to remove my hood - which made it clear to me that it must have been because of my appearance."

Helen has struggled with anorexia for years and been signed off work for two years because of it, so she spends her time making art and writing poetry. Born in Swindon, she moved to Liverpool for a while before returning to her hometown in April and used to enjoy going into Poundstretcher for various essentials, but the way her last shopping trip ended left a bad taste in her mouth.

Helen added: "They offered to let me pay for my stuff before I left and the girl escorted me to the basket I'd put down when I'd been stopped at the end of the aisle. If she was so scared of me, why did she go with me to get my basket? Anyway, I did apologise to her, I always try to be polite and usually don't like to make a fuss, but this has really annoyed me.

"To add further insult, I was told they didn't have a problem with me coming back, but if I did return I would have to be escorted around the shop by staff until they trusted me. How rude! At that point, I left the store and don't plan on coming back - I'll just go to Poundland.

"It's disgusting treatment, it's discrimination and it should not be allowed. I'm never rude and pride myself on my manners, this has really got to me because there was no reason for it.

"I write about issues like this in my poetry and strongly believe that everyone should be accepted. My housemates come from different backgrounds and they said they get discriminated against all the time, which is sad, and were surprised when I told them what happened to me."

When the Advertiser visited the shop, staff there claimed to have no knowledge of the incident, however Helen received an apologetic email from the chain's customer services team which this reporter has seen.

A Poundstretcher spokesman told her: "Please be assured we take all matters seriously and a thorough investigation is undertaken to establish the facts. The area manager investigated this matter. We apologised and stated all necessary action would be taken, including any disciplinary procedures if required. The outcome of this cannot be divulged due to data protection

"Having investigated this matter we found that the situation could have been handled better and we would like to apologise again for any upset or inconvenience caused. We have been assured that you may visit the store in the future."